Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Exodus 30:13 - Was Silver Shekel of The Sanctuary equal to 20 "Gerahs" or to 20 "Cuds" ?

According to Exodus 30:13, a Silver Shekel of the Sanctuary (a basic unit of measure and weight) was equal to twenty (20) "Gerahs" or "Cuds". Like I mentioned in my previous posts, it is unclear to me what exactly the expression "gerah" means. All commentators also give different accounts, interpretations and values of this elusive unit. Let's take a look:

13 This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD.
‎13 ‏זֶ֣ה׀ יִתְּנ֗וּ כָּל־הָעֹבֵר֙ עַל־הַפְּקֻדִ֔ים מַחֲצִ֥ית הַשֶּׁ֖קֶל בְּשֶׁ֣קֶל הַקֹּ֑דֶשׁ עֶשְׂרִ֤ים גֵּרָה֙ הַשֶּׁ֔קֶל מַחֲצִ֣ית הַשֶּׁ֔קֶל תְּרוּמָ֖ה לַֽיהוָֽה׃
First and foremost, the most interesting fact of the matter is that this expression (gerah) is translated differently in different verses of the text. It does not make sense to me, especially considering the fact that even in most authoritative masoretic text (see hebrew text above) the spelling of the the expression "gerah" is IDENTICAL to other verses (say, Lev. 11:3; 11:7, Numb 18:16 e.t.c). It is as if all commentators seem to simply ignore the contextual inconsistencies that arise from this little fact - not good.

However, since I'm primarily interested in finding the correct and precise value of these units (Shekel, Gerah, Talent, e.t.c), I'm going to start with examining different possibilities.

Let's assume that expression "gerah" means and equals to an average weight of one(1) kernel of barley. This means, that one(1) Silver Shekel of the Sanctuary would be equal to twenty(20) kernels of barley, and one Silver Talent would be equal to 3000*20=60000 kernels of barley.

Here is a summary table from an article titled "Using 1,000 Kernel Weight for Calculating Seeding Rates and Harvest Losses" by Dept. of Agriculture and Rural development of the government of Alberta, Canada.

As you can see from this table a rough approximate value for the weight of 1000 grains of barley (regardless of type) would be equal  to (30+50)/2=~40g. This seems to be relatively precise approximation of 1000 grain weight of barley, as according this article not only the 1000 grain measuring system appears to be a stable parameter, but also it lists similar values (~40g/1000grains) depending on the system of estimation.

For example, on this image you can see 1000 grains of peeled barley showing total weight of ~37.4g

And here is a comparison of the very same 1000 kernels of peeled barley to several US coins (penny, nickel and dime). As you can see, one thousand seeds of barley is about a handful.

Continuing the calculations by dividing 40g of average weight  by 1000 grains we would arrive to an approximate value of 0.04g per single kernel of barley. This, in turn, would make a Silver Shekel of the Sanctuary weigh about 0.04g*20=~0.8g. Consequently, a Talent of Silver would be equal 3000*0.8g=~2400g or ~2.4kg. Unfortunately, these resulting values seems to me a bit too low.

On the other hand, if we would take a different approach and assume that the expression "gerah" means "cud", or rather a small bolus or a pellet of regurgitated food from the digestive cycle of a cow, we would get completely different numbers.

Here is an excerpt from the article called "Effect of Seasonal Herbage Allowance on Bolus Weights of Cattle", by Jerry W. Stuth and Raymond F. Angell from the Journal of Range Management (Society of Range Management, Vol 35, No. 2, March 1982).
"Herbage allowances varying from 15.4 to 3.4 kg DM/100 kg BW/day did not have a significant effect on bolus weights in mature cows grazing bahiagrass pastures during mid-summer and early winter (P less or equal 0.05). Cow size and season of the year also had no significant effect on bolus weight. Bolus weight of the cows averaged 4.4(+/-0.1)g across seasons and cows."
Due to the complexity and nuances of the subject, I'm not quite sure about relevance of the values provided in this article to our issue at hand. I'm also not quite sure about the applicability of these values to all ruminants (i.e sheep, deer) and not just cows. However, I think it would be beneficial to perform the same calculations anyway.

Therefore, if we would assume that the expression "gerah" means "cud"(or rather "bolus"/"pellet" of regurgitated food), each of which weighting ~4.4g, then the Silver Shekel of the Sanctuary would weigh 4.4g*20=~88g and the Talent of Silver would weigh 88g*3000=~264000g or ~264kg. Unfortunately, these values seem to be way too high.

To sum things up, both of the approaches presented above to calculate the precise value of Silver Shekel of the Sanctuary seem to have failed to provide believable and justifiable results. Therefore, another approach needs to be developed for the calculation of these values. It has got to be very simple! Much simpler than what I have gone through so far! But unfortunately, I cannot see it at the moment.

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